Jeff Coleman

Jeff Coleman is a writer who finds himself drawn to the dark and the mysterious, and to all the extraordinary things that regularly hide in the shadow of ordinary life.

We Are One

Bruce Rolff/Shutterstock.com

This post was originally published through Patreon on September 12, 2018.

A blinding flash of blue, and then it’s happening again. I told them not to take me, that I wanted to stay. But they didn’t listen—they never listen—and now, my all-too-brief sojourn on Earth has come to an end.

I gaze down at the glowing celestial body I wanted to call home. Its luminous contours have already receded into the distance, but all the same, I keep my eyes fixed on Earth until it’s just another star, until even that solitary star has fallen so far behind that you’d need a telescope to even know it was there.

“Why?” I ask.

But they don’t look back. They don’t acknowledge my presence at all. And why would they? The beings who shuttle me across the cosmos for judgement believe I’m a traitor, a lowly creature worthy only of contempt.

“Is it because I had the audacity to leave? Can you not imagine why anyone would want to set out on their own? Why anyone would want to be different?”

I can sense the tension that mounts in my captors’ hearts, a thinly veiled hatred that bubbles to the surface of their minds for all that they try to conceal it. My kind wear their feelings on their sleeves—a strength or a weakness, depending on your perspective—and I can sense everything they refuse to say with words.

We are one, they think. One body, one heart, one mind. Did you not consider that by leaving, you might damage the whole of our collective existence? Such selfishness is beneath us. You are a cancer, yet we cannot destroy you without destroying ourselves.

A glimmer of guilt sparks within my heart, but I am ultimately unmoved.

From the moment I was born, I felt the incessant pull to be different. Perhaps I’m a throwback to a more primitive version of my species. Or perhaps, in some way neither I nor they understand, I’m simply defective. Perhaps I truly am a cancer. Individuality does not come naturally to us. Yet, whatever the cause, the need to be different is a part of me, and I can’t deny what I am any more than they can deny what they are. If I’m a source of division, it’s not my fault for being born that way.

“I am what I am.”

They recoil from my words, and inwardly, I sigh.

“You know I’ll just leave again.” The statement is not one of spite, only simple fact. “You can drag me back, but you can’t stop me from leaving once I’ve returned.”

At last, they address me directly. This time, their tone is not one of contempt but of weary grief and resignation.

“We know.”

That’s all they say before the empyrean lights of our homeworld surround us.

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Freezing Time

Evdokimov Maxim/Shutterstock.com

This post was originally published through Patreon on August 29, 2018.

Time is a vortex. It sucks you in the moment you’re born, and once it has hold of you, it never lets go. No matter how hard you struggle, no matter how hard you try to pull free, its grip remains, until finally it shoves you over the threshold of life into death.

A curse, or so Rita once believed. Now she wishes she’d let nature take its course. Oh, how she pines for death’s embrace. But death cannot be hers, now or ever again.

It was foolish for her to believe she could tamper with something as fundamental as time. But she was a powerful witch from a long line of witches, and she thought herself singularly capable of harnessing and channeling nature’s deepest mystery despite her mother’s repeated warnings.

“You’re gifted,” the woman said once when Rita was just a child. “Perhaps too gifted for your own good.”

Then, when Rita was seven, her mother died. Cancer consumed her from the inside out, leaving Rita shell-shocked and beholden to a desperate fear of death and the irreversibility of time. It haunted her every waking hour, until at last she resolved to do the forbidden, the unthinkable, the impossible.

Rita would freeze time.

Time, according to her tutors and textbooks, was immutable, no more moveable than a mountain or an ocean. Indeed, despite her many attempts to skirt its primordial limitations, she was never able to achieve her goal.

Then she had an idea. Perhaps time couldn’t be manipulated, but what about herself? What if she could untether herself from its ever-moving tide? Like a ship that’s dropped anchor, it would ebb and flow around her, while she herself remained stationary.

It was a revolutionary concept, and she was surprised no one had thought of it before. She took to locking herself in her room, to pondering her trailblazing theory in secret. Always she thought of her mother, of her terrible agony right to the bitter end. She pondered the physics, the math, the magic, until finally, piece by piece, she’d constructed a working model, an elaborate balance of celestial energies that she believed would allow her to accomplish the impossible.

The night before her transformation—the night before she destroyed herself more thoroughly than time and death ever could have—she lay awake in her moonlit room, dreaming of the cosmos and the mysteries she believed she was about to master. She would be a god, she thought, unfettered by the constraints of the universe. She would be immortal, free to roam the stars and all that lay between.

As it happened, she was right about the immortality. But as she soon discovered, it would have been far better had she not achieved it.

She’s alone now, suspended on the razor’s edge of a moment that will never come to pass. With no time to carry her forward, she is frozen like stone, her soul forever on the verge of a silent scream.

How wonderful it would have been to die like her mother. But for now and ever after, death is a luxury that will remain forever out of reach.

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Hello?

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This post was originally published through Patreon on August 22, 2018.

Alex woke to his cell phone ringing and answered just before it went to voicemail.

“Hello?”

“It’s been a long time.”

“Who’s this?”

The voice sounded familiar, but Alex couldn’t place it.

“You know who I am. You haven’t forgotten.”

“Kevin?”

Laughter was his only reply.

“Susie?”

Again, that laugh, hollow and dry.

A memory flashed before Alex’s mind like a shard of bright stained glass, a missive from the distant past: a pair of sunken eyes and a toadstool smile. Alex couldn’t remember who it was, but he was certain that face matched the voice on the other end of this call.

“Hello?”

A moment later, a name materialized to go along with the face. Not a normal name, not in the least, but just as familiar as that awful poisonous smile.

“Melthane.”

“You see?” said the voice at last. “I told you you hadn’t forgotten.”

Now, memories were piling one on top of the other. Flashes of another life. Flashes of another world.

“What do you want?”

“A marvelous place, Earth. We had all the magic, but this science and technology—this miraculous ability to build, to organize, to brute-force one’s ideas into existence—that’s its own special kind of magic, wouldn’t you say? Arguably more powerful than the sort you and I once dabbled in.”

It was all coming back to him now. His home, along with the reason he’d left it. But oh, God, he didn’t want to remember. The darkness. The destruction. Until Melthane reminded him of who he was, he’d managed to forget. Now, the peace of ignorance was gone, and it was never coming back.

“What do you want?” Alex said again, locking the bedpost beside him in a white-knuckled grip.

Melthane maintained silence a moment longer, but Alex could sense his deepening smile as if it had made a sound.

“My dear Alex, I only wanted you to remember.”

Click.

“Hello? Menthane, are you there?”

But Alex already knew the line was dead.

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